Cautions about our Divisions, that we may not make an ill use of them, but try if it be possible to get good out of them.
OUr Divisions are very evill, yet let us not make them worse then they are, and let us take heed that we be not made morse by them. Wherefore we shall▪
First, shew what are those ill uses which many make of them.
Secondly, that it is no such strange thing as some would make it, that there should be divisions in times of Reformation.
Thirdly, how it comes to passe that godly men are divided, who above all men, one would think, should agree.
Fourthly, why these differences are so strong, and sometimes so sharp amongst those men who seem to come very near toge∣ther in the maine, the matter of whose difference lyes in smaller things.
Fiftly, how far God himselfe, and Christ, and the Gospel may be said to have a hand in our Divisions.
Sixtly, What good uses we should make of our Divisions.
For the first. The ill uses that many make of our Divi∣sions, are,
[ 1] First, Some upon the evills they see and feel in them, think it was better with us heretofore, and wish we had those times againe; Just like the murmuring Israelites, as soon as they were put to any straits, they wished they were in Egypt again; it was better with us then, say they. Yea Num. 16. 13. out of dis∣content with their present condition, they commend the Land of Egypt, wherein they were Bond-slaves, to be a Land that flow∣ed with milk and hony, murmuring at Moses that brought them out of such a Land. The Land of Canaan that God promi∣sed to carry them to, was a Land that flowed with milke and ho∣ney, but out of the perversnesse of their spirits they despised that Land, and Egypt now in this froward humour of theirs, must be the Land that flowed with milke and honey. Oh the perversenss of mens hearts! if they be but a little crossed, how hard is it for God or man to please them! how unworthy are such fro∣ward spir•ts as these, to live in such a time as this, to see the Page 227 great work of God that he hath done for his people. It is true, heretofore men seemed to be more united then now, there ap∣pears more differences in mens opinions and wayes then for∣merly; but whence was it that men formerly were not at such a distance? was it not because they were chained together? two prisoners chained to a block keep together all day long; men that are at liberty walk in the streets at a distance; if the priso∣ners should commend their life as more comfortable then yours, because they keep closer together all the day then you do, would you envy their happinesse? time hath been that a tyranni∣call chain hath been upon us, we dared not then discuss any mat∣ters of differerence with freedom; if a Convocation determined it, there was a chain upon us to fasten us to it; now God hath given us more liberty to debate things freely, that we may finde out the truth more clearly; and though men while they are in their debates be at some distance one from another, do not say it was better with us heretofore then it is now, thou dost not speak wisely concerning this thing.
Surely these men who are so desirous of former times, are ad servitudinem nati, born to be slaves; it is pitty but they should have their eares bored for slaves.
Secondly, the ill use that others make of these divisions is to [ 2] cry out of Religion & preaching; since there hath been so much profession and preaching, we never had good world, there was more love and unity before, all things were more quiet, neigh∣bours were more at peace one with another: This is no other then if men when Christ lived amongst them, should have ob∣jected against him, Since this Christ hath come amongst us, we have had more trouble then we or our fore-fathers heretofore have known; we were not wont to heare of men possest with the Devill, so as now we do, now what a noyse is there in all the countrey of men possessed with evill spirits? we do not read of such things before Christs time; yet do you think this was a good argument why men should wish that Christ had never come? If the Devill be put into a rage now more then before, it is a signe he is more opposed then he was before; he possessed all in quiet before, but now his Kingdome begins to shake.
Thirdly, because of these divisions, many resolve they will [ 3] Page 228stand Neuters, they see it is doubtfull which way things may goe; seeing there are such differences, we will stand by and look on till we see how they will agree; by this means they do not only disert the publick Cause that is now on foot, but they are in danger to be for any thing at the last, or to turn Atheists. Chrysostome in his Sermons upon the Acts,* Chap. 15. in∣veighs against such men as these; he there makes an Apologie for the dissentions of the Christians, the Heathens objected, We would come to you, but we know not to whom we should come; one is of one mind, another is of another, we cannot tell what you hold, you are so different from your selves. Chrysostomes answer is, This is but a cavill; for first, this hinders you not in other matters, where there is difference amongst men, yet you will take paines and en∣quire which is the right; Yea secondly, if you did know what you should hold, yet you would not embrace it, for you doe know what you should do, and yet you do not do it; do what you know, and then aske of God, and he will reveale more to you.
[ 4] Fourthly, others cry out against these men that have been most active in this common Cause, putting forth themselves, ven∣turing their estates and lives, and putting on others; at the first these men were honoured, but men did not then see what would follow, they did not think that such troubles would have at∣tended such undertakings as now they have found; upon this their hearts rise against those who were the most publique spiri∣ted; Had it not been, say they, for a few hot fiery spirited men who know not what they would have, things had never come to this passe, we might have been quiet; These men are by some, yea many, looked upon as no other then disturbers, men of turbulent unquiet spirits, and yet they have been the means of preserving you and your posterity from slavery, and of continu∣ing the Gospell amongst you. This is an ill requitall of all that willingnesse of theirs to hazard their estates and lives for your good; You have cause to blesse God, seeing you were of such low, narrow, timerous spirits your selves, unfit for such a work as God had to do in the beginning of the change of these times, that he raised up others, and gave them enlarged, resolved spi∣rits, fit for such a publique work, accompanied with so many difficulties as attended upon this, did they break the ice for you, and do you thus requite them? This is like a froward, Page 229 perverse patient,* who flies in the face of his Physitian, because his Physick makes him sick.
Fiftly, others seeing much evill come of the divisions amongst us, they think there is no way to help them but by violence, for∣cing men to yeeld to what they think is right. They think they do God good service in compelling men to the same judgement and way that themselves are of.* This is a very ill use of them. It is a new and unheard-of way of preaching, sayes Gregory, to re∣quire men to beleeve by blowes. To go from the Divine Word to an iron Sword, from the Pen to the Halbert, to perswade men to beleeve,* is a way that Gerard. confess. Cath. l. 1. p. 809. exclaims against.
Socrates in his Ecclesiasticall History, lib. 3. cap. 21. reports of the Macedonians petitioning Jovianus the Emperour for the banishing of those who were not of their judgement in matters of religion of great moment. The Emperour receiving their sup∣plication gave them no other answer but this, I tell you truly, I cannot away with contention, but such as embrace unity and con∣cord I do honour and reverence them. Tertullian in his book ad Scapulam, cap. 2. sayes, It is not the way of Religion to compell Re∣ligion, which ought to be taken up willingly, not by force. If you should compell us, sayes he, to sacrifice, what did you in this for your gods? none desire sacrifice from those who are unwilling, but such as are contentious: but God is not contentious. I finde in Thua∣nus his History,* lib. 16. a notable passage in a writing that the Senat of Paris sent to their King in the yeare 1555. after he had sent forth an Edict requiring great severity against those who differed in matters of Religion: They professed to him they did not think his Edict equal, and that they could not subscribe to it: for, say they, we see that such severe punishments, for matters of Religion, render men detestible to the people, but their errours abide the same still, they are not at all altered in their opinions by seve∣rity but for their parts they give their judgements, that it were better to go in the old way of the Church, which did not propagate Page 230 Religion by sword and fire, but by pure doctrine, and the good ex∣amples of the lives of their Bishops. Let them live piously, and teach the word of God sincerely, this is the way to root out errours that encrease so fast: but if this be not done, no Lawes, no Edicts of men will doe any good.* Sleidan in his Commentaries hath set down a Decree of the Emperour, King Ferdinando, and the rest of the Princes and States, that the controversie of Religion should be appeased by none other but by godly, friendly, and quiet meanes. But a few pages after he relates the effect of a Petition of those in Austria for their freedom in Religion, to King Ferdinando, with an answer of the King to them: In which there was this passage, That such as shall not like that Religion which the Prince hath chosen, may have free liberty to sell that they have, and go dwell in another place, without any blemish to their estimation. To which the Embassadors of Austria reply: What discommoditie were herein, how heavie and sorrowfull newes this would be to the people, who seeth not? When they shall heare that they which have been ever most ready to spend their bloud and life for the preservation and dignity of the House of Austria, must now forsake their most sweet native Countrey, so many yeers inhabited and enriched by their fore-fathers? Therefore we admit not that Answer in this behalfe: but as we have done heretofore, for the honour of God we beseech you, that you would suffer us to have no let in this matter, &c.
But you will say, What does all this tend to, but to plead for an absolute Toleration, which you seemed before to be a∣gainst?
I answer, In quoting these Authors I own not such a judgment that possibly you may think to be in some of them for an abso∣lute Toleration. How a Toleration should be limited and grant∣ed, I have spoke to before: but I produce the Authors to this end, that the rigidnesse of the judgments of some amongst us that think all differences in religion thot cannot be quelled by argument, must be quelled b• violence, may be mollified. I am sure if any of these men go too far one way, those which I am now reproving goe as wide another. Fierce violence in matters of Religion is dangerous; as the Chirurgeons rigorous handling his patients arm, breaks that bone quite, which before was but out of joynt.
Page 231 6. Some take advantage by them to give themselves to loose∣nes [ 6] in their lives: it is a time of liberty, and they will take their time. If times were quiet and settled, they would be observed more narrowly, there would be means of restraint; but in these times every man takes his own way, and so will they. But know that God takes this very ill at thy hands. The more loose others are, the more conscionable shouldest thou be: the worse the dayes are, the more circumspectly shouldest thou walk. Ezek. 44. 10. The Levites that are gone from me, which went astray when Israel forsook me, they shall also bear their iniquity. The common∣nesse of a sin is an aggravation of it.
7. Some make no other use of them, then to observe which [ 7] way there may be advantage got by them: how they may sute themselves to this side or the other, for their gaine, or to drive on some private designe: so long as they can make use of the times that run such a way, they are for them: if the stream turn they can turn too: they can tack about to every wind: their study is not to help to heale them, but to contrive wayes how they may get by them. Hence they wrench and sprain their con∣sciences with the quick turnings this way and that way: they will be on the sunny side wheresoever it be. Cunning heads and corrupt hearts will serve their owne turnes by all varieties of times. If they were in Dioclesians time, they could be Pagans; if in Constantines, Christians; if in Constantius, Arrians; if in Julians, Apostates; if in Jovians, Christians againe; and all this within lesse then the age of a man.
8. Some have their spirits in a base manner subjugated by [ 8] these divisions and troubles that come upon them: they care not what they do or submit to: so be it they may have peace, they will bow down their backs and consciences, they will put them∣selves and posterity under the yoke of perpetuall slavery: so be it they may be at quiet, and enjoy their estates for the present, no matter what becomes of the publick, no matter what be∣comes of the truth. They are content to let all go, to betray all, for their own private advantage. This is beneath the spirit of a man.
9. Others are discouraged, upon the sight of the great evils that daily •low from our divisions, and are like still to flow, their hearts sinke in despaire. They call into question whether it be Page 232 the cause of God that we now undertake. When the Temple was building, there was no noise of hammer, axe, or any toole of iron heard in the house while it was in building. But oh Lord is our work Temple-work! We heare the noise not of hammer and axe, but of swords and spears, of drumms and cannons, of railings and revilings; these are dreadfull in our eares: but let us not be discouraged, for though there was no noise heard in the House, yet in preparation for the House there was. It may be all we are yet about is only preparatory work for the House of our God. If God will use us in this only, yet blessed be his name. Wherefore though our divisions be many and very evill, yet they are not so evill nor many, but that there may be hope in Israel concerning this thing. For consider,
[ 2] It is no new thing for divisions to be in the Church.
THe Apostle would not have us think it strange concerning the fiery triall, he means there of persecution. The fiery contentions amongst us, are another fiery triall. We should not think strange of this neither; as if such a thing had befaln us that nev•r yet befell any. I think for all circumstances it is every hard to parallel, but the Church in all ages hath been sorely afflicted with divisions. Act. 15. 39. Paul and Barnabas, two great Apostles, were so divided, that they could not keep com∣pany together, but went one from another in anger. The Text sayes, The contentions were so sharpe betweene them, that they departed asunder one from another.* The word signifies such a sharpnesse as there is in vineger. It is used by Physicians to sig∣nifie the sharpnesse of the feverish humour when it is acting in a fit. Their dissention put them as it were into the fit of a Fever. You will say, Surely it was some very great matter that should cause such eminent and holy men to be in such a passion one a∣gainst another, to be so hot as not to company together. Truly no: the matter was not great, it was whether Mark should go with them or no; the one would have him, the other would not have him, & about this the contention arose to this height. Reade the Epistle to the Romanes, to the Corinthians, to the Galathians, you shall finde very great dissentions in these Chur∣ches: Page 233 And in after-times especially, when God delivered them from those ten bloudy Persecutions, the contentions of the Church were very great. When Constantine came to the Ni∣cene Councell,* divers of the Members of that Councell accused one another to the Emperour, and put up Libels one against a∣nother, which Libels Constantine caused to be burned. After all the debates of the Councell, with the presence of the Emperour, who laboured all he could for peace and union amongst them, making large speeches to that purpose, to them, yet there were five of them dissented from the rest in matters of greater conse∣quence then any amongst us dissent from our Brethren, namely, in that point of Christs being of the same substance with the Fa∣ther. I finde in Eusebius this grievous complaint:*After our affaires, through too much liberty, ease and security, degene∣rated from the rule of piety, one pursued another with open con∣tumely and hatred; we impugned our selves by no other then our selves with the armour of spite and sharpe speares, of opprobri∣ous words, so that Bishops against Bishops, and people against people raised sedition; and they which seemed our Shepherds, lay∣ing aside the rule of piety, practised contention and schisme among themselves; and whilest they aggravated contention, threatnings, mutuall hatred, and enmity, and every one proceeded in ambition, much like tyranny it selfe, then the Lord according to the saying of Jeremy, made the daughter of Sion obscure, and overthrew from above the glory of Israel. The contentions of the Church caused by those four grand Heresies of Arius, Macedonius, Ne∣storius, Eutyches, one after another, exercised the Church a long time. There was much siding, some cleaving to one part, some to another in all these four. The first denyed Christs divinity, upon which the first Nicene Councell was called. The second, the personality of the Spirit, upon which the second Generall Councell was called at Constantinople. The third, the distin∣ction of persons in Christ, upon which the third Generall Councell was called at Ephesus. The fourth confounded Christs natures, upon which the fourth was called at Chalcedon. A∣bout this time Pelagius and Donatus caused much disturbance in Europe and Africa. Epiphanius who lived in the third Cen∣tury, reekons threescore severall Heresies that had got head, ma∣ny followers of them all, which caused great breaches in the Page 234 Church from the time of the Apostles to the time wherein he lived. After the division of the Empire into the Easterne and Westerne parts, then arose mighty contention for the Pri∣macy between the Bishops of Rome and Constantinople, that put the Church into wofull contentions for many yeares, one part excommunicating the other, writing and opposing one a∣nother to the uttermost. When this heat is at the hottest then on the one side, upon the Westerne parts God let out the Gothes, Hunnes, Vandals, those barbarous people, and Ma∣homet upon the Easterne, so that all learning was almost extinct in the Christian world, and grosse darknesse came upon the face of all Churches. The Church having lost her lights, men of learning and worth, then the great contention about Images arose that 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, the Eastern Churches demolishing Ima∣ges in Temples, the Western maintaining them with extreme contention against the Eastern. There were not only excom∣munications thundred one against another, but much bloud was shed in that quarrell. In this condition have the Churches been from time to time divided, yea fighting with one another about opinions. And for the divisions and contentions betweene particular men, and most eminent Lights in the Church, in those times, after they came to have rest from persecutions. We find most lamentable complaints in the writings of the Ancients,* of the extremè offence these dissentions were to the Heathen. Nazianzen in his first Apologeticall Oration: We are made a spectacle (sayes he) to Angels and Men, not as that valiant champion Paul, who fought against Principalities and Powers, but we are made a scorn to wicked men, in their Markets, their Feasts, their Playes, in all their meetings. The most vile people jeer us, and all this for contending and warring one with ano∣ther. Basil makes this complaint: I have lived now (sayes he) the age of a man, and see more union in Arts and Sciences then in Divinity: for in the the Church I see such dissentions as do di∣vide it assunder, and dissipates it.
Chrysostome and Epiphanius fell out so bitt•rly, that the one wished the other might never dye a Bishop,* and the other wished that he might never goe home alive. And it fell out to either of them as each one had wished to the other, for Epiphanius came not to Cyprus, he dyed on the Seas by the way, neither did Chry∣sostome Page 235dye a Bishop, for he was deposed and banished the Church. The contentions between Jerome and Ruffinus were bery bitter, who had been formerly great friends. Augustine in his 15. Epistle sayes,*Their friendship had been famous in all the Churches. If such things may fall out between Jerome and Ruffinus, (sayes he) who that is now a friend may not fear to be an enemy? Yet Ruffinus writes two Books against Jerome, which are intituled Ruffini Invectiva in Hieronymum.*He begins his first invective, applying that of the Psalmist to Jerome, Ps. 57. 4. I lye among them that are set on fire, even the sonnes of men, whose teeth are speares, arrowes, and their tongue a sharp sword. In the beginning of his second, he accuses him of lying, and that he does himselfe what he reproves in others; with abundance of such kinde of bitter stuffe. And Jerome payes him againe in the same kinde. In his 16. Epist. ad Principiam Virginem, he calls him a Scorpion, in regard of the poyson that came from him. And in his Apology against him, lib. 3. in the beginning of it he ap∣plyes that Scripture to Ruffinus, Prov. 14. 3. In the mouth of the foolish is a rod of pride. And that of Isay, Isa. 32. 6. The vile person will speak villany, and his heart will worke iniquity, to utter error against the Lord. And I finde in an Epistle of Au∣gustine to Jerome, a great complaint he makes to him of those differences there were between Ruffinus and him: with very patheticall expressions to move Jerome to peace.* When I read your Epistles, I pined away with griefe, my heart was cold within me for feare. Oh miserable, oh lamentable condition that we are in! You who were wont to be most familiar, joyned in the strongest bands; you who are wont to lick up the honey of the holy Scriptures, now there is bitternesse amongst you. Woe is me that I cannot meet you together, that I might fall down at your feet, and weep my fill! that I might beg of you as strongly as I love you, sometime either of you for your own sake, sometime both of you for eithers sake, and especially for the sake of those that are weake, for whom Christ died, who look upon you with a great deale of danger; that you would not in your writings spread such things one against another, which though you should agree you could not wipe off from one ano∣ther; or such things as if ye were agreed ye would be afraid to reade.
Page 236 Yea many times there was very hot contest between Jerome and Augustine himselfe. Sometimes I finde some of their wri∣tings one against another to be very sharpe.
If we can debate things without bitternesse of discord, well and good;* but if I cannot tell you what should be mended in your wri∣tings, and you tell me what should be mended in mine without sus∣pition of envie and breach of friendship, let us meddle no more, but favour our healths and lives.
In after-times when God stirred up a spirit in Luther, and o∣thers, to set themselves against the tyranny of Antichrist, to throw off that heavy yoke of bondage, the dissentions between the chief publique instruments of God to the Church was very great,* as Luther, and Zuinglius, and Oecolampadius, and Coro∣lostadius.
Luther in one of his Epistles sayes, that there was no wicked∣nesse, no cruelty, that Zuinglius did not charge him with. And in another Epistle he complains that Corolostadius was more malitious against him then ever any of his enemies yet had been. And as for Oecolompadius, Luther was so provoked against him, as he called him the black Devill. We may see what strange corruptions are working-sometimes in the hearts of godly men.
As for the many sects and rents in and presently after Luthers time, they would fill up a large volume to name them, with their severall opinions and wayes. There is one Schlusselburgius a Protestant Divine, that hath gathered the chief of them toge∣ther in twelve or thirteen severall Books that he wrote about them. There is not any one strange opinion amongst us now, but you shall finde it amongst them in terminis, and that so pre∣vailing as to get a strong party to joyne with it. Only I remem∣ber not that one that hath taken some, who though they ac∣knowledg the Scripture, yet think there is no visible Church upon the earth. In after-times whosoever shall read Junius his Comment upon Psal. 122. will finde the state of the Church in his time miserably distracted and distressed with contentions. IPage 237 cannot (sayes he): but be exceedingly moved,* when I thinke of these evills. What shall I doe? Shall I hold my peace when the Devill has stirred up so great a perturbation, has kindled so great a fire? Certainly there is such a fire kindled in the Christian world, that unlesse God looks from heaven upon us, it will consume all: the mindes of men are as hearths for this fire, upon which sin burns; the tongues of men, some are the bellowes that blow this fire, others as fuell by which this fire burnes more and more. That the tongue can∣not do to blow up and down this fire, that virulent papers do, dung∣carts of virulent papers, that is his expression. Yea a great part of the Christian world at this time, seems to be rather like the place of the burning of dead bodies, then the house of Christs flock: are these Shepherds? are these the Sheep of Christ, whom I see to con∣sume away in their miserable burning? Surely they are Shepherds still, they are the Sheep of Christ, and anointed ones still: but many of them in this horrible and deadly burning, remember not that they are Sheep or Shepherds. And thus he proceeds further in pouring forth his soul in most grivious complaints.
This fiery triall of dissentions in the Church then is no new thing; we are to be sensible of it, to account it a great affiction; but not to look upon it as if some strange thing had befalne us, that never befell the Churches before.
But you will say, How can we do lesse but account it a very strange thing, that those who fear God should be thus divided? that dogs should snarle one at another, is no marvaile: but that sheep, that those who are godly should do thus, this we cannot but wonder at: for what reason can there be given for it, yea what shew of reason can there be imagined?
If we consider of things wisely,* we have no such cause to won∣der that godly men in this their estate of imperfection should differ so much one from another as they do; For
First, every godly man prizes and seeks after knowledge; [ 1] Page 238 others mind little but their profit and pleasure; they trouble not themselves about the knowing the things of God, except am∣bition puts them upon it; they care not which way truths goe: But the Godly man prizes every truth at a high rate, worth the contending for, to the uttermost, rather then to deny it or lose it. In the dark, all colours be alike, but in the light they appeare diverse. While the Egyptians were in the darke, they all sate still, but they moved with various motions when the light brake out upon them: when men discusse things, and desire to see farther into them, it is impossible, considering the weaknesses of the best, and the variety of mens apprehensions, but there must needs be much difference in mens judgements, & then con∣sidering that every thing they apprehend to be a truth, their consciences are engaged in it, at least thus farre, that they must not deny it for a world; this puts mens spirits at distance, al∣though both be godly, both love the truth equally.
[ 2] Secondly, Godly men are Free-men, Christ hath made them so, and requires them not to suffer themselves to be brought under bondage, they must not, cannot submit their consciencee to the opinions, determinations, decrees of any men living; they cannot submit to any as Lords over their faith; this others can do: as for points of Religion, say some, let learned men judge of them, we will not be wiser then they, we will submit, and others must sub∣mit to what they shall determine: this makes quick work indeed of divisions, but this, those who feare God, cannot do; they must see every thing they own as truth, with their own light, yet re∣ceived from Jesus Christ though they reverence men of greater parts, deeper learning, yet they have the charge of Christ upon them, not to acknowledge it as truth, till they understand it to be so; this causes much contention amongst good men, through their weaknesse and corruption of their hearts.
The lesse distance men apprehend between themselves and o∣thers in regard of power, the more differences there are amongst them, as they say the greatest and sorest stormes are about the Equinoctiall: Men are kept more at peace in the Common∣wealth then in the Church, because there is a greater subjection of one to another there, then may be admitted in the Church.
[ 3] Thirdly, godly men give up themselves to the strictest rules of holinesse, they walk in the narrow way of Christ, it is broad Page 239 enough to the spirituall part, but in regard of our corruptions, it is a narrow pent way; they dare not give way to themselves to decline a haires bredth from the rule, to gratifie others; they dare not bend to them, that they might sute more with them, but must keep themselves to the straight rule; they must keep just in their path; they cannot go aside to give way to others; hence there is clashing, every one not having the same thoughts of the rule and way that others have; those who walke by loose rules, in wayes that are broad, even to their flesh, they can sure themselves one to another easily, they can gratifie their friends, yea the corruptions of their friends more then others can do; godly men cannot yeeld for peace sake to such termes as other men can.
Fourthly, the things that the Saints are conversant about, are [ 4] great things, things of a high nature, about their last end, their eternall estates; hence every one is very charie, and carefull, and strongly set to maintain what he apprehends; those who under∣stand not the infinite consequence of those things, who have not had the feare of them fall upon their hearts, they wonder at the stifnesse of mens spirits that they can be brought to yeeld no more in such things that they conceive they might yeeld in, and where there are different apprehensions of those things that concern mens eternall estates, even amongst godly men, they must needs stand out one against another, till God causes one of them to see things otherwise then now he doth.
Fiftly, the things of Religion are hidden mysteries, they are [ 5] the secrets of God, they are hard to be understood, God reveals them in a differing way, they are not ordinarily so clearly re∣vealed, but that the apprehensions of them are like to be diffe∣rent.
Sixtly, the Saints are bound to watch over one another, each [ 6] is his brothers keeper, they ought to advise, admonish, reprove one another, not to suffer sinne to be upon their brethren; now this (through our corruption) is very displeasing, we doe not love to be medled with, to be crossed in what we have a mind to; but other men can better preserve their own quiet, by let∣ting their brethren alone; I will not trouble them, lest I be troubled my selfe. Hence it is that they many times live more quietly one with another, then godly men do; yet this is a Page 240 great evill, a shame to those who are godly, that it should be so upon any termes.
[ 7] Seventhly, ungodly men are dead in sins, the Devill hath them sure enough, he doth not seek to stir their corruptions so much as he doth the corruptions of the godly; he shall not get so much advantage by the one as by the other; therefore he la∣bours to keep the corruptions of the godly acting as much as he can, that he may disquiet their owne spirits, and the spirits of those with whom they converse.
Thus you see it is no such wonder why there are dissentions amongst men that truly feare God; Suppose they should live all together, yet so long as they live here in this muddy world, it cannot be but there will be sometimes foule weather amongst them; but if you look into the Church, and consider of the dis∣sentions there, there is a farther reason for them, for usually there are many hypocrites mingled with the godly there, they taking up a profession of religion and so creep into the Church, they finde spirituall things unsuitable to them, hence they fly off,* their spirits not being brought under the yoke of Christ, they fling against those things that pinch them. We read Num. 11. 4. that the great trouble the Children of Israel had among them, after they were got out of Egypt, was from the mixt multitude that was among them; these are as ill humours in the body, that do much disturb the quiet of it. None have more turbulent, cruell, impatient spirits, then hypocrites; none are so desirous of revenge as they, sayes Luther.
[ 4] Yet further,* the fourth thing propounded, is to shew, that those that come nearest together, yet differing in some things, are many times at greater variance one with another, then those who differ in more things from them. The Jews and Samaritans were at greater variance then Jews and Heathens.
Epiphanius tells of a sect of the Jews, the Nazarites, who con∣tinued the Customes and Ceremonies of the Jewes, but ac∣knowledged Christ also; and the Jews in hatred to them cursed them solemnly three times a day, morning, noon, and evening, when they went into their Synagogue to pray.
The Turks have a honourable esteeme of Christ, which the Tartars have not; yet they say, that the Tartars turn. Christians sooner then the Turks: The Turks and Persians are both Maho∣metans, Page 241 they are both circumcised, but the Turks follow the way of Ebubezer, and the Persians are of the Schohle of Haly; they detest one another more then they do the Christians; they will both tolerate Christians to live amongst them, but they will not tolerate Mahometans, who are in a different order from themselves.*
Luther complaines much of those who acknowledged the same doctrine, professed the same faith with himself, came to the same Sacraments, yet were worse enemies then the Papists, so that the Papists laughed at them, and said, They bite one another, and are consumed one of another.
I have read of a profane speech of one Cosmus Duke of Flo∣rence, against some perfidious friends, You shall reade (sayes he) that we are commanded to forgive our enemies, but you never read that we are commanded to forgive our friends. Breaches of friends of such as are otherwise nearest are the greatest. Prov. 18. 19. A brother offended is harder to be won then a City, and their conter∣tione are like the bars of a Castle.
1. We see it in nature, the nerrer the union is, the more grie∣vous [ 1] is the usurpation; tis not so great an evill to a man for his arme to be seperated from his body, as his soule; for the u∣nion of the one is integrall, of the other it is essentiall. The bone is more firmly united in all the parts of it then the flesh, and the least breach in that is farre more hurtfull then a greater in the flesh.
2. Those who agree in many things, have hope it may be to get [ 2] one another to them; upon this they struggle with one another the more: as for those who are at a great distance, they have no hope to prevaile with them, therefore they make no onset, but seeing themselves frustrated of their hopes, there this troubles them, yea it oft stirs up a spirit of anger against them whom they cannot get up to themselves.
3. Those who agree in many and great things, and yet stand [ 3] out in few and of lesse consequence, are thought to be the more unreasonable; if you yeeld thus far, why not a little farther? the one thinks so of the other, and the other thinks so of him, and hence their spirits are stirred one against another.
4. Those who come up near to others, and yet dissent, seeme [ 4] to stand more in the light of those they come up so neare unto, Page 242 then those do who are at a greater distance: it makes men think such a one is not in the right, if he were, those who come so near to him would see it; they who think themselves got be∣yond others, cannot enjoy that comfort and content in what they are beyond others in, as otherwise they might, because such as are so near them are against it, if they did not agree in most things, and those of greatest moment, their opposition would not be much regarded: but because they are such men who for their judgements and lives are so unblameable, their differing in such a thing is more then if a hundred times as many, who were at a greater distance in their principles and lives, should differ from us.
[ 5] 5. They who are so near one to another, have occasion to converse more together then others have, and to argue things oftner one with another, then with such as they differ more from. Now it is seldome that men of differing judgements and wayes meet and argue, but there is some heat between them be∣fore they have done: and so their spirits grow more estranged one from another then before. And if your spirits be estranged, then those that you have reference to, and such as are in your way, will have their spirits estranged too, your relation of things to them according to what apprehensions you have of them, will be enough to estrange their hearts, and so by degrees a bit∣ternesse grows up between you.
[ 5] The fifth thing, That God hath a hand in our divisions, and how farre.
GOd had a great stroak in the division of these ten Tribes from the two, 1. Kings 1•. 23, 24. The word of the Lord came to Shemaiah the man of God, saying, Returne every man to hits house, for this thing is from the Lord. In the sense of the Prophet there, we may say that our Divisions are from the Lord. We are wrangling, devising, plotting, working one against another, minding nothing but to get the day one of another: but God is working out ends above our reach, for his glory and the good of his Saints.* There must be Heresies, sayes the Apostle, I Cor. 11. 19. So there must be Divisions.
Page 243 That word Haeresis is used to signifie severall opinions,* severall wayes, Haereses Platonicae, Haereses Peripateticae. Chrysostome interprets the place of the Apostle, There must be Heresies, of such Divisions as we are treating of.
But why must there be Divisions, what does God ayme at in them?
Answ. First, the discovery of mens spirits, that they which are approved may be manifest, sayes the Apostle. By those divisions in Corinth,* wherein the rich divided from the poore, whereby the poore were condemned, the graces of the poore in bearing this were manifested. Thus Chrysostome upon the place: The Apostle sayes this, That he might comfort the poor which were able with a generous minde to bear that contempt. The melting of the metall discovers the drosse, for they divide the one from the o∣ther. These are melting times, and thereby discovering times. If Reformation had gone on without opposition, we had not seen what drossie spirits we had amongst us. Those who have kept upright without warping in these times are honourable before God, and his holy Angels and Saints.*
2. By these Divisions God exercises the graces of his servants. A little skill in a Mariner is enough to guide his Ship in faire weather: but when stormes arise, when the Seas swell and grow troublesome, then his skill is put to it. In these stormy troublesome times there had need be much wisdome, faith, love, humility, patience, selfe-deniall, meeknesse, all graces are put to it now, they had need put forth all their strength, act with all their vigour; our graces had need be stirring, full of life and quicknesse now. God prizeth the exercise of the graces of his Saints at a very high rate. He thinks it worth their suffering much trouble. It is a good evidence of grace, yea of much grace, to account the trouble of many afflictions to be recompensed by the exercise of graces. In times of division men had need stirre up all their graces, and be very watchfull over their wayes, and walke exactly, be circumspect, accurate in their lives. Those who have not their hearts with them, have their eyes upon them, prying into them, watching for their halting. When there is siding there is much observing. Lord (sayes David, Psal. 27. 11.) teach me thy way, and lead me in a plain path because of mine ene∣mies, so it is in your books; but you may reade it because of Page 244 mine observers: enemies are observers. Hence it was the policy of the Lacedaemonians alwayes to send two Embassadours toge∣ther which disagreed among themselves,* that so they might mu∣tually have an eye upon the actions of each other.
[ 3] 3. God will have these to be in just judgement to the wic∣ked, that they may be a stumbling block to them who will not receive the truth in love. There are so many opinions, such di∣visions, so many Religions, say some, that we know not what to do. If your hearts be carnall, not loving the wayes of God, not prizing spirituall things, not savouring the things of another world, these opinions, divisions, may be laid by God in judge∣ment as a stumbling block in thy way,* that thou mayest stumble upon them and break thy selfe for ever. God hath no need of thee. If thou wilt be froward and perverse against his truths, if thou hast a mind to take offence, you shall have matter enough before you to take offence at. Stumble and break your necks, as a just reward of the perversnesse of your hearts. These divisions which you rejoice in, which you can speak of as glad that you have such an objection against my people and wayes that your hearts are opposite to, shall cost you dear, even the perdition of your souls everlastingly.
It was a speech of Tertullian, I account it no danger to af∣firm, that God hath so ordered the revelation of truth in Scri∣ptures, that he might administer matter for Hereticks.
[ 4] 4. God hath a hand in these Divisions, to bring forth further light. Sparkes are beaten out by the Flints striking together. Many sparks of light, many truths are beaten out by the beatings of mens spirits one against another. If light be let into a house, there must be some trouble to beat down a window. A child thinks the house is beating downe, but the father knowes the light will be worth the cost and trouble. If you will have the cloth woven, the Woofe and Warpe must be cast crosse one to another. If you will have truths argued out, you must be content to bear with some opposition for the time. Those who are not willing to bear some trouble, to be at some cost to find out truth, are not worthy of it. Those who love truth will seek for it, for truths sake; those who love victory, yet be∣cause the truth is the strongest, will seek after truth that they may get victory, Dan. 12. 4. Many shall runne to and fro, and Page 245 knowledge shall be encreased. To some these divisions darken truths, to others they enlighten them. We may well behold mens weaknesse in these divisions, but better admire Gods strength and wisdome in ordering them to his glory, and his childrens good.
Be not discouraged ye Saints of the Lord, at these divisions, your Father hath a hand in them, he wil bring good out of them. Yea Christ, who is the Prince of peace, hath a •and in them. Matth. 10. 34, 35. he sayes, Thinke not that I am come to send peace on the earth, I came to bring a sword. I am come to set a man at variance against his Father, and the Daughter against her Mother. One would think it to be the strangest speech that could be, to come from the mouth of him who is the great peace-ma∣ker. Oh blessed Saviour, must we not think that thou art come to send peace? Thou art our peace. Is not thine Embassage from thy Father, an Embassage of peace? True: peace with my Father, but not peace on the earth; not an earthly peace; do not think that I came from heaven to work this for men, that they should live at ease in plenty and pleasure, that they should have no disturbance, no trouble to the flesh: no, the event of my comming you will finde to be a sword, divisions, and that between those of the nearest relation. A child who is wicked will despise and break with his godly father, and the daughter with her godly mother. And Luke 12. 53. the carnall father and mother will have their hearts rise against their godly sonne and daughter. I am come to send fire on the earth, and what will I if it be already kindled? Let it kindle as soone as it will, I am contented, I know much good will come of it. These Scriptures are enough to take away for ever the offence of divisions.
First, Christ himselfe is the greatest offence to wicked men that ever was in the world: he is the stumbling stone and rock of offence, thousand thousands being offended at him miscarry everlastingly. Christ foreseeing how many would be offended at him, Mat. 11. 6. blesseth the man who shall not be offended. Some are offended at what they see in Christ; others apprehend whatsoever is in him to be most excellent and lovely, that which they cannot but defend and stand for to the death. He is disal∣lowed of men, rejected by the builders, a stone of stumbling to them: but to the Saints the chief corner stone, elect, precious, Page 246 1 Pet. 2. 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. Such different apprehensions of Christ must needs divide men.
2. Christ comes to make the greatest alteration that ever was or can be in the world, and do we not finde that troubles ac∣company alterations, and above all alterations, alterations in government, and especially such a government as gives no com∣position, yeelds no compliance with any thing else? When Christ comes he brings his fanne in his hand, he must have his floore throughly purged; he gathers his wheat into his garner, & severs the chaffe to be burnt in unquenchable fire. If he comes thus, who shall abide his comming? Mal. 3. 2. Who shall stand when he appeares? for he is like a Refiners fire, and Fullers sope, he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, he shall purifie the sons of Levi. Certainly there will be much adoe when they come to be purified. No men in the world are like to make so much stirre when they come to be purified as the Clergy will. Christ comes to cast out Devils, they will fome, fret, vex, rend and teare when they are a casting out. The Gospel likewise di∣vides. The word of the Gospell is a dividing word. Heb. 4. 11. It is quicke, powerfull, sharper then a two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soule and spirit, of the joints and marrow. It divides in a mans own heart, and divides between man and man. The light of it divides. The first division we ever read of was of Gods making, Gen. 1. 3, 4. When he said, Let there be light, and God divided the light from the darkness. The doctrine of the Gospel shews the spiritualness of Gods commands, the sinfulnesse of thoughts, of the first stirrings of sin, Mat. 5. this touches to the quick.
The heat of the Gospel divides: it is like fire when it comes, Is not my word like fire? The preaching of the Gospel with power heaps coales of fire upon mens heads, which will either melt them, or burn them. In it there is a separation of the pre∣cious from the vile.
The Ordinances of the Gospel divide, they difference men. Some they will receive, others they will not. They must bring men to a higher, to a stricter way then the sluggish, dead, vain, slight, drossie hearts of men are willing to come up unto.
The godlinesse that is in Christ Jesus divides, therefore who∣soever will live godly so, must expect to suffer persecution, 2 Tim. 3. 12.
Page 247 1. Those who hold forth the life and power of godlinesse, seem to challenge a more speciall peculiar interest in God then others which cannot be endured, 1 Joh. 5. 19. We are of God, and the whole world lyes in wickednesse.
2. Their lives condemne others, which they cannot abide, as Noah is said to condemne the world, Heb. 11. 7.
3. In godlinesse there is an excellency. They whose hearts are naught cannot look upon that hath any appearance of ex∣cellency, without a spirit of envy. If they judge men only to be conceited with it as an excellency, but for their parts they think it not to be so, then they look upon them with a spirit of indig∣nation.
4. Godlinesse makes men zealous in such things as others can see no reason why they should. They think they do incalescere in re frigida, and that the ground of their zeal is vanity, and turbulency of spirit.
5. It makes men constant: nothing can turn them out of their way. The Son yeelds not to his Father, the Servant not to his Master; this is judged to be stoutnesse and wilfulnesse, though God knowes it is far otherwise, it must needs therefore enrage others at them.
The good uses that we are to make of our Divisions.
WHy may not meat come out of the eater, and sweet out of these bitter things? The Heavens can draw up salt vapours from the Sea, and send them down againe in sweet re∣freshing showres. Why may not heavenly hearts change the very nature of these sowre brinish things, and make them sweet to themselves and others? This is the excellency of grace; it does not only preserve the soule from the evill of temptations, but it gets advantage by them, it turnes the evill into good. Lu∣ther upon the Galat. c. 5. v. 17. hath a notable expression to set forth the power of grace: By this a Christian (sayes he) comes to be a mighty workman, and a wonderfull creator, who of heavi∣nesse can make joy, of terrours comfort, of sinne righteousnesse, of death life. And why may not I adde, of division and contention, peace and union? Wherefore
First, by these Divisions men may come to see the vilenesse [ 1] and the vanity of their own hearts: what were the thoughts of Page 248 men heretofore? Oh, had we but liberty and opportunity to be instrumentall for God, we hope we should improve all to the uttermost for him, now God hath granted these to us, we abuse them, we grow wanton, we jarre one against another: we are like some Marriners, who are calme in a storme, But storme in a calme. Surely every man is vanity. The untowardnesse of the spirits of those who heretofore longed after ordinances, freed from these defilements they mourned under, when they have their desires in great measure satisfied, discovers so much evill in the hearts of men, that it justifies those whom themselves have had hard thoughts of, men who seemed carnall and naught, that you looked upon as very evill, men of bitter spirits against good men, you thought such things apparently argued them void of grace, and yet when you are got into Church-fellowship, that way of freedome, that your soules mourned after a long time, now though you be joyned in covenant one to another, yet if your brethren differ any thing from you, though they be other∣wise godly, what a bitternesse of spirit is there in some of you against them! what pride! what frowardnesse doe you mani∣fest against them! Oh what a poor creature is man! if once he gets power and liberty, what a deale of filth appears in him! we may learn by this to have charitable thoughts of some, of whom we have had hard thoughts before; we see if these men have any grace, grace may be in a mans heart lying under much corruption.
[ 2] Secondly, learne to be humbled for that dishonour which comes to God by these divisions; thou spendest thy time in vex∣ing [ 3] and fretting at, in crying out against these breaches, but when was thy heart broken with the dishonour that God hath by them?*
Thirdly, let these divisions confirme us in the maine, and settle us there more then ever; for do we not see that those many sorts of men who are divided, who oppose one another much, yet they all joyn in the things of the greatest consequence, they all witnesse against the common enemy? This, sayes Nazianzen, is the greatest argument of the truth, that it is not overcome by time, neither can enmity one against another put out that little sparke of the love of it that is in us, &c. If a mans house stands after many shakings of strong windes, he concludes the foun∣dation Page 249 is good, this satisfies him, though some tiles be sha∣ken off.
Fourthly, let us blesse God who hath carryed on the work [ 4] of Reformation thus farre, notwithstanding our divisions; we were afraid that these differences, not so much betweene the good and bad, but betweene the good and good, would have undone all, and yet behold the Lord beyond our thoughts, how infinitely beyond our deserts, hath carryed on the work hither∣to, so as it gets ground, though it be not so speedily brought to an issue as we would have it.
Fiftly, let us hence raise our hopes in this, that Satans time is [ 5] not long; his raging and foming so violently, doth evidence it to us. Surely Christ our Prince of Peace is at hand, he will tread down Satan under our feet shortly.
Sixtly, let us from these stirs without, be put upon the labou∣ring [ 6] to make and to confirm peace within. Oh consider, is the breach between man and man so grievous? how grievous is that which is between God and the Soul! I find it hard, and doubt whether it be possible to be at peace with men in this world; I find them of such froward, peevish, selfish, wilfull spirits, even many who seem to be good men otherwise, but God gives many encouragements to poor souls to come unto him; he is a God of love and mercy, he delights not to grieve the children of men, to crush under his feet the prisoners of the earth: he is willing to be reconciled to sinners: there is nothing that his heart is more set upon, then reconciliation with wretched sin∣full souls. Oh that in these sad dayes of miserable dissentions, I might be blessed with the comforts of the reconciliation of my soul with God! if this were, I hope I should be able contented∣ly to bear, and with strength to pass through all those heart∣sadning evils caused by these breaches and dissentions there are amongst us. This were a good use indeed, made of such evill things, if mens contending with you shall thus further your peace with God; what he once said of Adams sin, it was Faelix▪ peccatum, a happy sin, because it occasioned so much good in Mans Redemption: So I may say of that strife and contention there is among us, it is faelix contentio, a happy contention, that God hath turned to so much good unto you.
I have read of Robert Holgate, who was Arch-Bishop of York,Page 250 because he could not peaceably enjoy his small living in Lin∣colne-shire, in regard of the litigiousnesse of a neigbouring Knight, comming to London to right himselfe, he came into the favour of King Hen. the 8. and so got by degrees the Arch∣bishoprick of York, he thought he got well by the litigiousnesse of this Knight; but if the strifes of men shall put thee upon those providences and duties which shall be so blessed unto thee, as to further thy getting into the favour of the high God, and the enjoyment of the soule-satisfying sweetnesse there is in peace with him; what cause shalt thou have of admiring free grace, which hath brought to thee so great a good from so great an e∣vil? and if these strifes have been a meanes to move thy heart Godward for thy making thy peace with him, let them also put thee on still to further, to confirme, to settle, to main∣taine thy peace with him. VVhen the winde and storme rises, the Traveller plucks his cloak the closer about him; these dividing times are stormy times, labour to get your souls to the harbour under shelter, labour to make sure of that one thing necessary; the more strangely men looke upon you, let your hearts be stirred up to seek with the more strength the face of God, that you may never look upon it but with joy. You hear harsh notes abroad, such things as grieve you at the heart, labour so much the more to keep the bird alwayes singing in your bosome.
[ 7] 7. If your peace be made with God, blesse God for it. It is a great mercy for a man in these times of trouble, to have rest in his own spirit; while others are tossed up and down in the waves of contention, you sit quietly in the Arke of a good con∣science, blessing the Lord that ever you knew him and his wayes.
[ 8] 8. Labour to make up your want of that good and comfort you heretofore had in Christian communion, with a more close and constant communion with the Lord, who hath been pleased to speak peace unto you. Although I have not that comfort in communion with the streams, yet I may find it fully made up in the fountain.
[ 9] 9. By way of Antiperistas, let us labour to be so much the more united with the Saints, by how much we see others to be divided: Men make void thy Law, sayes David, therefore doe Page 251 I love it above gold. We use to put a price upon things that are rare: what makes Jewels to be of that worth, but for the rarity of them? Unity, hearty love, sweetness of communion among brethren, is now a very rare thing, a scarce commodi∣ty, let us prize it the more, and you who do enjoy it, bless God for it.
10. The more confused, broken, and troublesome we see [ 10] things to be, the more let our hearts be stirred up in prayer to God, putting him in mind of all those gracious promises that he hath made to his Church for peace and union: Lord is it not part of thy Covenant with thy people, that thou wilt give them one heart? hast thou not said that they shall serve thee with one shoulder? hast thou not told us that thou wilt make Jerusalem a quiet habitation, that thou wilt take away violence, that there should be no pricking bryar nor grieving thorn?
11. Those whose consciences can witnesse to them, that it [ 11] hath been their great care not to enwrap themselves in the guilt of these divisions, but they can appeale to God that they have endeavoured after peace so far as they could with a good con∣science, let them bless God for this mercy, it is a great deli∣verance to be delivered from the guilt of those divisions. Deut. 33. 8. Of Levi he said, Let thy Ʋrim and Thummim be with thy holy One, whom thou didst prove at Massah, and with whom thou didst strive at the waters of Meribah. Massah signifies tentati∣on, and Meribah, contention. Places and times of contention are places and times of tentation. Now if God shall prove us at those places in those times, and we be found upright, this will bring a blessing upon us. At those waters where the peo∣ple murmured, contending even with God himselfe, Aaron (though there was some weaknesse in him) yet kept himselfe from being involved in the guilt of that sinne of contending with God. And Sol-Jarchi, with other of the Hebrewes, say, that the Levites were not in that sinne neither; which they thinke that place Malachie 2. 5. refers unto, My covenant was with him of life and peace, for the feare wherewith he feared me, and was afraid before my name. The feare of God was up∣on Levi, at that time he dared not contend as then others did, and therefore my covenant of life and peace was and is with him. We have been these three or foure yeeres at these waters Page 252 of Massah and Meribah, God hath tryed us. How happy are those who have held out, who have kept their consciences free, upon whom the fear of God hath been, and through that feare of his, have walked before him in the wayes of truth and equi∣ty? The blessing of the Covenant of Life and Peace be upon them for ever.